Thursday, January 7, 2016

Doctor Who Role-Playing Game: Some Thoughts

I finally started running a small campaign using the Doctor Who Role-Playing Game (formerly known as: Doctor Who: Adventures in Time & Space). This is kind of dream come true for me as I am a really big fan of the Doctor ever since watching him back in the States at the end of the 1980ies. My favorite Doctors are #7 and #11.

I am running a five-part campaign called The Companions where the Doctor always disappears at the beginning of the adventure - simply because I didn't want to bother with playing him as an NPC and not knowing, if one of the players would be up to the task of taking him over.

My concerns initially were if I would manage to recreate the frantic atmosphere of the series. Turns out: my openings feel more like the slow openings of the old series, but then pick up pace. So, I am actually start to enjoy running the game.

My observations so far

The rules rest at a happy medium between simulationist and narrative style. Story points bridge the gap between a more simulationist approach and a narrative approach. Thus, I can see both types of players being comfortable with the game.

The game play shows that the rules don't get in the way of running the game. It's actually quite easy to remember the ladder of No and, No, No but, Yes but, Yes, and Yes and results and when you get them. Setting difficulties is also pretty easy for an experienced GM. The rules enhance the game without being cumbersome, and the graduated successes help drive the story.

The character creation was not really tested yet, because I used the PreGens. Only one player built his own character. I think, here it helps to have access to the rulebook to look over all the options. The system is geared to create the companions and timelords we see in the series.

The rules for building gadgets are really simple, but again it helps if the player has access to the rulebook.

In a way I like the boxed sets which I also own more. They had a players' and a GM book where the GM repeated the player info in condensed form, thus enabling the GM to hand over the players' book to the players during the session. Also, it contained tokens for Story Points, Gadget Cards and Character Sheets for the Companions. Here, the Tenth Doctor box wins the day, because the effects of good and bad traits are listed on the sheet.

The Vortex System is obviously geared towards playing the Doctor and his Companions, and all the aliens and creatures are stated for the Vortex System. The books (not only the rulebook) are illustrated with pictures taken from the series which really is a no-brainer and creates beautiful books based on the franchise.

My big but

After running three sessions of the game, and having run FAE recently, I feel the Vortex System is complicated as opposed to FAE. A lot of the mechanical effects that Vortex codifies could be more easily and elegantly be simulated by FAE or Fate Core. Building a gadget? As easy as creating an advantage (and not limited to a list of traits). Being a Timelord? No need for a dozen traits, but simply an aspect that can be invoked or compelled. Special good traits? Not all of them need to be mechanical, some could simply be aspects. Those with mechanical oomph could be stunts.

So while I will finish my current "season" of The Companions with the Vortex System, for further seasons I will strongly consider moving to FAE or Fate Core.

Fate of the Requiem: Setting & Character Creation

In this post I want to outline how I'd go about creating a Vampire: The Requiem game with Fate Accelerated Edition. I've sort of given up on a generic Fate game for vampires, instead focusing on making Vampire: The Masquerade and/or Vampire: The Requiem work with FAE. I just love the setting of Vampire: The Requiem, but I don't really like the second edition of the game. The second edition for the first time tries to be a story game, but in my opinion falls short due to some design decisions (or lack of deeper playtesting). The setting in VtR 2.0 on the other hand is ramped up to eleven thanks to kick-ass writing.

Bruce Baugh has done some excellent work for a VtM or VtR hack of the game. Things I am going to build on:



The Basics

The game uses the six standard approaches of FAE. The game itself will have three campaign aspects that can be invoked (including hostile invokes) and/or compelled:
  • A Hunger Like Fire (representing the thirst for blood)
  • The Suns Forgotten Kiss (representing the vulnerability of vampires to sunlight)
  • A Beast I Am, Lest a Beast I Become (representing the beast and it's effects)

Setting Creation Part One

The GM picks some of the major players (prince, primogen, head of covenants). They also chose a city to set the game in (simply because the GM should be familiar with the city in question). Then the group sits down together and creates a current and an impending issue according to Fate Core. After that the group fleshes out parts of the city along the lines of Dresden Files city creation: select a location (fictional or real) or a city district, put an aspect to it and create a face for that location or district. It's recommended to let each player (including the GM) one location or district.

Character Creation

The characters are built according to FAE. They have up to five aspects, distribute values to the six approaches (1x good, 2x fair, 2x average, 1x mediocre), and select up to three stunts.

Aspects

The five aspects cover the following:
  • High Concept aspect (who are you? what is your character about?)
  • Trouble aspect (what is an issue the character has?)
  • Masquerade aspect (how does the character interact with mortal society?)
  • Requiem aspect (what is the character's place in the Danse Macabre?)
  • Clan aspect (fixed and based on the chosen clan of the character)
The character's clan and covenant must either be part of the high concept, the trouble and/or the requiem aspect. As part of the high concept or requiem aspects clan and covenant indicate a character in good standing with those two entities. As part of the trouble aspect, they indicate issues with clan and/or covenant. The player can decide where to put clan and covenant, they don't have to be part of the same aspect.

The clan aspect is derived from the clan of the character:
  • Daeva: The ones to die for.
  • Gangrel: The ones you can't kill.
  • Mekhet: The ones you don't see.
  • Nosferatu: The ones you fear.
  • Ventrue: The ones you can't deny.

Stunts

The characters get four stunts for free. Three are Discipline stunts designed around the theme of a discipline (either 1st or 2nd edition). Two of those must be from the clan disciplines of the chosen clan. The third can be from any discipline or a covenant specific one for the covenant of the character.

The fourth stunt is based on the chosen clan of the character (which takes heavy inspiration from the clan-specific stunts created by Bruce Baugh).

Examples for stunts and the clan-specific stunts will be listed in a later post.


Setting Creation Part Two

After creating the characters, you continue to flesh out the setting. This time using the section "Climbing the Ladder" from Vampire: The Requiem 2.0 (simply follow the instructions).


Additional Rules


Using Vitae

Vampires are able to use the power of their blood. Thus, a player can decide to take a blood thirst related consequence and gain a bonus to their next dice roll (+2 for taking a mild consequence, +4 for a moderate consequence, and +6 for a severe consequence). If a character is taken out by blood thirst related consequences or stress, they go in a frenzy. The GM is free to decide the results of that frenzy.

The Hunt

In order to get rid of a blood thirst related consequence, the vampire must hunt for blood. This is usually a three part challenge:
  • Carefully or cleverly identifying the prey (usually at Fair difficulty)
  • Flashily or sneakily approaching the prey (usually at Fair difficulty)
  • Forcefully or quickly taking their blood (difficulty depends on type of consequence to be healed: mild consequence - fair, moderate consequence - great, severe consequence - fantastic)
Failing to identify or approach the prey the result in wasted time, as the character has to start the hunt again in another scene. Failing to take the blood usually results in some sort of discovery that forces the character to flee. They have not gained any blood, but also haven't been discovered. Minor costs for a tie include being observed, discovered or disturbed. Major costs to turn a failure into a success could be anything from a Masquerade breach to being found by hunters (see also page 96 in VtR 2.0 for further ideas on major and minor costs for a hunting challenge).

The hunt can also be used to heal physical consequences.

The next post in the short series will cover some examples for discipline stunts.